Why Rodriguez will be a man to watch
Racing is all about making the right decisions, sometimes you have to make them instantly or your chance is gone but other times you have plenty of time what to do.
Take the dilemma of Pierre Rolland and Europcar on the Ventoux stage, the Polka-Dotty Frenchman missed the day's break when it was a good chance for him to sneak off and get some GPM points so he pondered what to do. While Team Sky set a controlling tempo which wasn't going to pull them back he thought about it much too long and the 20-man group gained a few minutes. Then someone decided it really would be better for his spotty future if he was in that break after all so he set off in pursuit, one against 20 who hold a few minutes lead. Of course he's deluded and has fat chance of making it but he insisted and got stuck in no man's land halfway across the gap, on the verge of blowing completely he quite rightly sat up and hoped for another day. Then the DS in the Europ-car decided to make his soldiers chase the break, presumably as punishment for having no one in the 20 and consequently they reduced the gap but in the process they fell apart too.
Over at Movistar someone then calculated it was a manageable situation and decided it was their turn to put men to work, no doubt thinking Quintana could win the stage if they kept the gap to a couple of minutes at the bottom of Mont Ventoux - which to their credit they do. But it cost them all their men and in the meantime Sky were sitting pretty, waiting for the last fight to the base of the climb.
And just as what has happened in every race that Sky has riders left when the last climb starts, the men in black set a speed which sees tickets issued to those leaving the train. So when Quintana attacked for the stage win Chris Froome still had two riders to control that gap. Peter Kennaugh did a great job for five kilometres then Richie Porte took over and the scramble to stay in the GC group got very serious. When the yellow jersey decided it was time to go even Contador was blasted out and then it was only a matter of when he caught the Colombian, not if. It was no surprise Froome won at the top of Ventoux as he's been the best climber in the race but the way the others rode beforehand, it was if they hadn't noticed when they take him to the last mountain he kicks their backsides.
What were Europcar doing chasing? All they did was wear themselves out and allow Froome to become part of the mountains prize equation, an equation which Rolland looks like he's out of now. And what were Movistar thinking? Instead of putting the yellow jersey team under pressure in the final all they did was give them an easy ride.
It's not just Europcar and Movistar that have come up with the questionable tactics whenever Sky have been in trouble others have ridden with them when they could have left them to sink completely. BMC and AG2r rode on the side wind day when they didn't have to either and have continued to ride as if they have decided to settle on their GC placing already. Belkin I can understand riding sometimes as those guys are hanging on in hope but Evans, van Garderen and guys like Peraud were surviving; they have had no influence on GC proceedings yet they continued to ride as if they had.
Heading into the three big mountain stages if no one gets their tactics sorted then Sky will be doing what they have always done, controlling to the final climb and then putting Richie Porte on the front until it's time for Froome to finish it off. It's not exactly rocket science in terms of strategy but other than isolated moments the other teams have let that happen all too often. It wouldn't be so bad if they had no choice but with Sky being weaker than before the other teams have made some strange decisions.
One thing I never thought I'd see, Joaquim Rodriguez almost winning a time trial. Chris Froome winning from Contador is no surprise but Purito chasing them hard, now that's worth noting. He and Katusha could well hold the cards to how the final stages play out.
- Robert Millar
Robert Millar was one of the last pure climbers of the Tour de France, winning several stages in the mountain stages and finishing fourth overall in 1984. He is also the only English speaker to have ever won the prestigious polka-dot jersey climber's competition jersey. Millar retired in 1995 but has continued to follow the sport closely. He was often critical of the media and quickly cuts through the excuses and spin to understand why and how riders win and lose.
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